Bible openThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Matthew 7:28-29

The Authority of Jesus

28 And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29 for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.

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These verses conclude the Sermon on the Mount recounted in Matthew 5, 6 and 7.

Jesus’s final Sermon on the Mount message, which I’ll go into tomorrow, was the instruction to build one’s house on a solid foundation of rock rather than an unstable one of sand (Matthew 7:24-27). It is an analogy of faith, obedience and salvation contrasted with one of hypocrisy and condemnation.

Afterward, Matthew’s Gospel tells us the ‘crowds were astonished at his teaching’ in this greatest of sermons (verse 28) and sensed His ‘authority’, very much unlike what emanated from what their scribes (verse 29).

These are positive and negative verses. In one sense, they are encouraging to read. On the other hand, they also point to rejection.

Matthew Henry’s commentary explains (emphases mine):

Now, 1. They were astonished at this doctrine it is to be feared that few of them were brought by it to follow him: but for the present, they were filled with wonder. Note, It is possible for people to admire good preaching, and yet to remain in ignorance and unbelief to be astonished, and yet not sanctified.

And:

2. The reason was because he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. The scribes pretended to as much authority as any teachers whatsoever, and were supported by all the external advantages that could be obtained, but their preaching was mean, and flat, and jejune: they spake as those what were not themselves masters of what they preached: the word did not come from them with any life or force they delivered it as a school-boy says his lesson but Christ delivered his discourse, as a judge gives his charge. He did indeed, dominari in conscionibus–deliver his discourses with a tone of authority his lessons were law his word a word of command. Christ, upon the mountain, showed more true authority, than the scribes in Moses’s seat. Thus when Christ teaches by his Spirit in the soul, he teaches with authority. He says, Let there be light, and there is light.

John MacArthur preached on these verses in the 1970s:

What was the response this day?  A great revival, tremendous conversions?  No.  Verse 28, “It came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were – ” converted.  No?  No they weren’t converted.  They were “astonished; For he taught them as one having authority, not as the scribes.”  All they did was analyze it

They were astonished.  We could use a lot of words for that.  It means they were awed, they were amazed, the were dumbfounded, they were bewildered.  But I looked it up in the Greek text, and it literally means they were struck out of themselves or they were struck out of their senses.  In the vernacular, it blew their minds

It blew them away that anybody could stand up there and say all of those things with such power, exousia, authority, such power, such dynamic and not do it like the scribes.  And how did the scribes do it?  They just quoted other people.  They were fallible and they stacked up a lot of other fallible people as their source.  Jesus just flat out said it, and it blew them away. 

They had never heard such wisdom, they had never seen such depth, they had never understood such scope.  Every dimension of human life was touched in an economy of words that was breathtaking.  They had never heard such deep insight into the law of God or the sin of man.  They had never heard such fearful warnings about hell, hellfire and judgment. 

They had never heard anybody who so confronted the religious leaders of the time.  They were utterly shocked that He didn’t use anybody else as an authority but seemed to stand upon His own authority.  And that’s where it ends.  They were shocked

But that’s not the way it ought to end for you.  You should be more than shocked, more than amazed.  You should be converted.  That’s what Jesus is after.  They never heard anybody speak the truth like He did.  They never heard anybody speak of divine matters with such clarity.  They never heard anybody speak with such love.  They never heard anybody speak with such absolute utter and total power and authority. 

But they didn’t respond the right way.  I mean, they couldn’t believe that a Man would say He was the fulfillment of the law, that a Man would say He was the determiner of righteousness, that a Man would say He was the corrector of the scribes and Pharisees.  They couldn’t believe that a Man would claim to be the way of life, that a Man would claim to be God Jehovah, that a Man would claim to be judge of all, the one who could come and make judgment on everybody.  They couldn’t believe that a Man like this could say He was the King.  And all they got was astonishment

The Sermon on the Mount is much more than the Beatitudes and the Golden Rule. It includes many difficult teachings which should reach all of us at our core. It should point to our examining our own spiritual state. It should encourage us to ask ourselves whether we are truly obedient to Christ’s teachings.

Do we accept some and not others? If so, can we call ourselves Christians? Do our lives reflect obedience or rejection?

Whilst much of the Sermon on the Mount is in the three-year Lectionary, some passages are not. I have written about these over the past few months. What follows is a recap with links. All can be found on my Essential Bible Verses page:

Matthew 5:25-26 – anger, sin, holding grudges, improper worship because of interpersonal conflict

Matthew 5:31-32 – adultery, divorce, marriage

Matthew 6:7-15 – Lord’s Prayer

Matthew 6:22-23 – the eye lamp of the body

Matthew 7:1-6 – judging others, pearls before swine

Matthew 7:7-11 – ask and you shall receive

Matthew 7:12-14 – Golden Rule, enter by the narrow gate, wide gate leads to destruction

Matthew 7:15-20prophets, sheep’s clothing, ravenous wolves, pastors, clergy, a tree and its fruit

May we study and meditate on these. If we haven’t already, may we experience true conversion and obedience.

Next time: Matthew 8:1-4

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